I do this a lot. I lose interest too easily. I have idea after idea after idea, but none gets pursued fully, if at all. Such is the fate of this blog, it seems.
But it’s more complicated than that. I am just a little Katrina-ed out. I was telling a colleague the other day how my empathy feels messed with these days. My students’ old standby excuses—dead grandparents galore, perpetually flat tires, unnaturally frequent episodes of bronchitis and flu—have been replaced by talk of sheet-rocking woes, or plumbing explosions, or power outages, or “there’s no cable/phone/internet access where I live,” or construction traffic, or road closures, or, or, or. All legitimate excuses, I suppose, but still. I feel angry at them for using the storm as an excuse.
This anger has come, lately, in the form of several episodes of straight-up rage. I’m talking crazy rage: head-spinning, out-of-body experience rage that is not in any way an appropriate response to what brought it on.
Luckily this hasn’t happened in the classroom, but it’s been hard. When I am getting my butt here on time every day, when I am doing my work by the deadline, when I am making my school life work while still living in the same city these kids are living in, I just lose my temper and my tolerance for excuses. So I didn’t lose my house. So I didn’t lose my belongings. So: These Days, this feels like a liability. I can’t start over.
So I am feeling stuck and not like writing. And I know that my three readers don’t want to hear sad stories, either, but it’s when I feel worst that I am drawn to the page.
Anyway, Simon and I are wanting to nest. We got married; now it’s nesting time. It would seem that we are in a grand position to nest, too. We both have stable jobs. Our income and affordable rent allows us to chip away at my student debt (slowly, slowly… we do have teachers’ salaries, after all). But we would like to own a house—and one in our neighborhood, where the home prices in our neighborhood have skyrocketed. For example: The guys across the street from us are selling their house for $325,000. This is the new price. It was listed at over $450,000. Another example: recently, friends of ours paid almost $200,000 for a one-bedroom house comparable to ours in size. It’s in much better shape than the one we’re in, but still. I mean, I had this notion that we could buy a house in my neighborhood for something like the housing prices were when I moved into the neighborhood (the house we’re in was purchased for well under $100,000.) But now it appears this dream of homeownership is out of our reach.
For the record (Mom), we are not really anxious to buy right now. We’re just looking ahead, and thinking ahead—and the view is not a good one.
I mention this because I looked into the Habitat for Humanity Musicians’ Village. There, one can purchase a brand new home (including major appliances), and pay around $500/mo for a 30-year mortgage. These are beautiful, structurally sound 2 and 3 bedroom homes that have beautiful New Orleans flair. Porches and stoops. High ceilings. Transoms. They are painted charming colors. They are New Orleans homes, but without the burden of age.
So considering Simon and I are too poor to purchase a new home in New Orleans—or any home that isn’t gutted or flooded or in a scary, scary place—I thought maybe we’d have a chance at the Musicians’ Village.
Wrong. A household of two cannot have an income of more than $24,000.
Anyway, so I’m listening to NPR and a piece comes on about this Musicians’ Village and this drummer chick who just moved here from out of town somewhere is talking about how she would have had to get a “real job” to afford a house in New Orleans, and how, like, even then it would be impossible to, like, afford anything, so, like, she’s really psyched for this opportunity and like, everyone should apply.
I find myself hating her. Like really hating her. I have this horrible conservative spell. I think, “So GET A JOB!” I resent her for being poor enough to get help. I resent her and her drum circle and her freedom and her interest-free mortgage (oh—and the price INCLUDES insurance, which is impossible to get these days). I resent her because she isn’t even a Fredy Omar or a Jeremy Lyons, or some super-hardworking, making-it-happen-musician; she was an amateur.
She was me, eight years ago—back when I was singing and hustling for tips at Pat O’Brian’s until four in the morning.
Now, though, I am grown-up, and I have a “real job” and I have a roof over my head—a roof I want to be my own. What is this? Why do I want so badly to own something when I know my landlords won’t kick us out?
I guess I just want to know that I can stay. I want to be in control of some part of our fate in that way—in this city that I love, for better or worse.
And here I am learning that the message in New Orleans These Days is this: if you are really really poor, there’s help. Or, if you lost everything: plenty of help. If, however, you are two dedicated teachers who work too much for too little, who have student loans out the wazoo, and who want, for whatever harebrained reason, to stay here, to teach these students, to live in this city, well then good luck.
I know this is a ridiculously oversimplified way of seeing things. I know, I know, I know.
Still, I don’t know why this upsets me so much.
I guess I am just really hungry for some stability, and it feels so impossible, so unattainable. I resent my wealthy gay neighbors. I resent the poor. I am having a middle-class crisis, right smack dab in the beginning of my middle age.